Most of the commentary I've seen regarding President Bush's impromptu shoulder-rub/aborted massage of German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the G8 summit has treated the incident as a light, wacky divertissement, much like Bush's goofball attempt to make a dramatic exit from a press conf in China only to be thwarted by a locked door. Certainly there's something intrinsically comic about a freelance prowling masseur looking for flesh to knead. Just last night I saw an episode from the Lifetime sitcom about a dating agency headed by the sensational Jane Lynch where one of the matchmakers was giving unauthorized foot rubs to clients, defending his behavior by claiming, "I can't keep track of all ten fingers." His hands see an opportunity, and they take it.
Bush's behavior crosses more boundaries, and not just because the Leader of the Free World doesn't normally lay his playful hands on the opposite sex in his high-powered public forums. Put simply, what Bush did is a very odd way for a married man to behave under most circumstances, even odder under these. I'm sure Lance Mannion, TBogg, and medal-honored veterans of matrimony will back me up on this: a husband's reaching down to massage a woman's shoulders is not standard operating procedure. Quite the opposite. It's an invitation to trouble and lengthy interrogation--from questions that begin, "What were you doing?" and proceed, Pembleton-style, from there. Now there are exceptions, of course, longtime female friends to whom one can give a platonic squeeze without major seismic repercussions, but this doesn't seem to be one of them. Given that some of our racier tabloids have been hinting in screaming headlines that there's trouble in the Bush marriage, this was not the most felicitous time for him to get grabby.
Perhaps it was nothing more than Bush's usual privileged-snot appropriation at play. A symptom of the same syndrome that has him hanging nicknames on people, and kissing bald men on the head. Reports in the Financial Times and elsewhere have indicated that Bush is hoping/planning to groom Merkel as the US's number one ally to fill the spot of the fading Tony Blair, to whose troubles Putin wickedly alluded. It's difficult to know what would be in it for Merkel or Germany, given the lopsidedness of the special relationship between Bush and Blair, where Blair stands stalwart on the War on Terror and for his orotund loyalty receives the contempt of his own people, cries of "poodle" in the press, and the back of Bush's hand over global warming, trade, etc. But Bush has always been a taker, not a giver. He wasn't giving Merkel a massage, he was taking possession of her, letting everybody know, "This little lady's mine." I wonder what Merkel's husband thought of Bush's handy familiarity. I can't imagine Laura Bush was too thrilled.